|“||I force a woman to go where I want, and when I go there I tell them, 'Do you know what? I was hurt, so I'm doing it now.' Then I kill them.||”|
Moses Sithole is a South African serial killer and rapist responsible for most of the ABC Murders, so-called because they largely took place in the Atteridgeville and Cleveland suburbs of Johannesburg, as well as in Boksburg, Gauteng province.
Sithole was born in Vosloorus, a black residential area just south of Boksburg, in 1964. When he was a child, his father died. Later in his childhood, his mother abandoned him and his four siblings in a police station. Beforehand, she instructed them to never tell the officers she was their mother. They were interned in an orphanage of Benoni and later transferred to KwaZulu-Natal. Claiming mistreatment, Sithole run away after three years and went to live with his older brother Patrick. After an unspecified time, Patrick moved to Venda and Sithole sold their house without permission. Afterwards, Sithole had a number of menial jobs in farms and gold mines surrounding Johannesburg. He liked to help street children and returned many runaways to their parents. He was also considered charming and a ladies' man.
Starting in 1987, Sithole began raping women. The following year, in the midst of his crimes, Sithole began a relationship with a seventeen-year-old girl in Boksburg, Sibongile Nkosi, whom he mistreated. In February 1989, he raped Buyiswa Swakamisa and threatened her with a panga, a South African machete. Months after, Swakamisa saw Sithole standing outside her new workplace and called the police. In "a very unprofessional move", officers forced Sithole and Swakamisa to share the backseat of a police car as they drove them over to the station. During the trip, Sithole kept cursing at Swakamisa and saying that he should have killed her. Sithole was sentenced to six years in prison. While still incarcerated, he met a woman named Martha (surname unrevealed) who was visiting a relative in prison, and they began writing letters to each other. Eventually, Sithole was released in 1993 for good behavior, and he moved to Pretoria with Martha and her parents.
Crimes, Arrest, and Incarceration
In July 1994, while Martha was five months pregnant with Sithole's daughter, Sithole lured eighteen-year-old Maria Monama to Cleveland. His bait, like in all the following murders, was a desk job in a foundation named "Youth Against Human Abuse", which didn't actually exist. After raping and strangling Monama with his own hands, Sithole wrote three messages on her skin: "She a beach [sic]", "I am no fighting with you please [sic]", and "We must stay here for as long as you don't understand." It is believed that these messages were directed to law enforcement, and that for each time he killed, Sithole imagined that he was taking his revenge on Swakamisa for reporting him. By the fall, four women had been found strangled in Cleveland, a fifth in Pretoria, and a sixth in Boksburg. One of them was Sithole's mistress, Amanda Thete, whose funeral was attended by Sithole. However, the police arrested a different man, David Selepe, after he was recorded by an ATM machine's video withdrawing money using Thete's credit card. Selepe was later shot by police while purportedly leading officers to the site of Thete's murder, and the case was considered closed.
Sithole's daughter was born on December 5, 1994. Later, months after the birth of their child, Sithole and Martha separated. Sithole became homeless and slept in train stations. From then on, more women were found murdered at an increasing pace in Pretoria (mostly in the Atteridgeville area) and Boksburg, always not far from a railway. The police stated that they still believed Selepe was the Cleveland killer, but that they couldn't rule out a connection to the new murders. The press dubbed the spree the "ABC Murders" after the initials of Atteridgeville, Boksburg, and Cleveland, and wondered if they were committed by the same killer, rendering Selepe innocent. South Africa's first profiler, Micki Pistorius, was assigned to the case. She determined that the Cleveland murders were perpetrated by two different killers, one of whom was also the one responsible for the more recent Pretoria and Boksburg murders. Because there was still fear about a false accusation against Selepe, Pistorius invited retired FBI profiler Robert Ressler to check the evidence and revise her profile. Ressler spent a week in South Africa and largely supported the conclusions of Pistorius, including her prediction that the killer would contact the media. Meanwhile, the hysteria about the murders had reached such levels that then-President Nelson Mandela made a public appearance on TV to ask viewers for their cooperation.
On October 3, 1995, Sithole called the Gauteng newspaper The Star, saying that his name was "Joseph Magwena" and that he was "the man that is so highly wanted". He then gave them a lengthy interview, in which he claimed responsibility for almost all the murders, but denied any part in the ones committed in Cleveland. He also insisted that he was not responsible for the deaths of two-year-old Sibusiso Ndlangamandla and his mother, and claimed that he loved children. Sithole said that he hated women because he had been imprisoned after one falsely accused him of rape. To prove that he really was the killer, he finished the interview with some clues about the location of an undiscovered victim. Meanwhile, the police learned that all of the identified victims went missing after being offered a job by a man. They checked a phone number that many had called before their disappearance, which belonged to Sithole's sister. After realizing that Sithole's history matched details given in the interview of "Magwena", it was announced that Sithole was wanted for the murders, and his image was released to the press.
Sithole called his brother-in-law and told him that he needed a gun to protect himself. They agreed to meet at a factory where the brother-in-law worked, in Benoni, and the man immediately informed the police afterwards. The police planted an undercover officer, Francis Mulovhedzi, who posed as a new security guard. When Sithole arrived, he asked for his brother-in-law; the other security guards, who were unaware of the operation, told Mulovhedzi to get him. Mulovhedzi refused to leave his post because he didn't want to lose sight of Sithole. Suspicious, Sithole fled and Mulovhedzi chased him into an alleyway. Mulovhedzi identified himself as a police officer and fired two warning shots, but Sithole attacked him with an ax, wounding his hand. In return, Mulovhedzi shot him in the leg and stomach. Sithole was then arrested and rushed to a hospital, where he was in critical condition for two days. After his recovery, he refused to make a statement until he was visited by a female officer. Sithole then claimed to have committed over ten murders, and described several in detail while he masturbated.
Sithole was formally charged with 38 murders. While in remand, Sithole agreed to give a recorded interview to an inmate under the premise that it would be sold and his part of the benefits would go to his daughter. This time, Sithole admitted to 29 murders and said that he "did not know where the other nine came from". According to Sithole, he got his main thrill from watching his victims' eyes bulge out when they died. At his trial, however, Sithole declared himself innocent of all charges, and accused the police of forcing him to confess. On December 4, 1997, Sithole was found guilty of 38 counts of murder, 40 counts of rape, and six counts of robbery, and sentenced to 2,410 years in prison with no possibility of parole for 930 years. Sithole is currently serving his sentence in the C-Max section of Pretoria Central Prison, the highest security block in all of South Africa.
Sithole targeted unemployed black women in their 20s who looked after their appearance. He offered them a desk job, and after a train trip, he led them on foot to one of his killing sites in the Gauteng area, claiming that it was a shortcut to his office. Once there, he told them that he had been hurt by a woman and that he was going to rape and kill them unless they defeated him. He would then bind their hands, undress them, rape them more than once, and strangle them in the location. He strangled the first victim with his own hands, and the rest with a ligature taken from the victims themselves (mostly their own panties, but sometimes also belts, shoelaces, and purse handles). The last victims were strangled with a garrote made with their clothing and a stick. These last victims were also raped and killed directly over an older body, and their hands were bound to their necks, to make them unable to struggle without strangling themselves. Sithole would masturbate while his victims died. Afterwards, he covered their faces with their own clothing and weighed the clothes down with stones.
"[Sithole is] very charming, very well-spoken... whatever I asked him, he answered. He was pleasant, he was polite... Scary."
-Dr. Lorna Martin, the district surgeon
Pistorius profiled the ABC Killer as a black male in his late 20s or early 30s, who is self-employed, with access to money, drives an expensive car, and wears flashy clothes and jewelry. He is also socially competent, charming, and a ladies' man; probably married, separated or divorced; visits places where alcohol is sold and enjoys socializing; has antecedents for fraud or theft; might tell someone that he is the killer, but using the third person, and taunt the police; follows reports of the murders and the investigation in the press; detests women, despite being very charming to them; collects mementos that he disposes of later, and masturbates after the crimes; has a high sex drive and peruses pornography; was exposed to sexual violence in his past, perhaps as a juvenile; and is very intelligent and streetwise.
Ressler said that the ABC Killer "has a high sex drive and reads pornography. His fantasies, to which he masturbates, are aggressive, and he believes that women are merely objects to be abused. He enjoys charming and controlling women. When he approaches a victim, it is done in a very calculating way, and he is very conscious that he is eventually going to kill the victim, and savours the thought while he softens her up."
David Selepe was initially attributed to six of the murders, but controversy now surrounds his true involvement in the killings. Four of the aforementioned six murders were later attributed to Sithole, but, outside of Amanda Thete, it was never revealed which of the murders Selepe was exonerated for, and what evidence was used to attribute the six murders to either Sithole or Selepe. The profile drawn for the Cleveland and Atteridgeville-Boksburg killers was identical, and Ressler believed that Selepe was somehow involved in the Cleveland murders, either as an accomplice or as the only killer. However, his main argument for this was that Selepe had been filmed by the ATM camera. The man in the tape was later identified as Sithole, both by Sithole's sister and by a social worker that had interacted with him. Furthermore, Selepe was killed while leading the police to the place where Amanda Thete was found. Thete's murder was attributed to Sithole after it was discovered that she was in a relationship with him at the time of her death. Sithole's DNA was found in Thete's body, but it could have been left as a result of consensual sex prior to her murder.
Sithole consistently denied ever knowing Selepe, having any accomplices, or his involvement in the Cleveland killings, even while he confessed to most of the other murders. Sithole also said that there had been copycats styling their crimes after his own. Selepe, in contrast, said that he had two accomplices named "Tito" and "Mandla", a fact that was not immediately released to the public. Adding to the confusion, Sithole used the alias "Mandla" when he made a taunting call to the grandmother of one of his victims, once he was already under police custody. Likewise, someone who claimed to be named "Martin", a recurring alias of Sithole's, called the workplace of one of the victims attributed to Selepe, to inform the workers that she would not go to work that day because she had suffered an accident. According to Pistorius, even if Sithole was indeed allied with Selepe, Sithole will never admit it because he enjoys his celebrity status and doesn't want to share it.
On Criminal Minds
While not mentioned or referenced directly in Criminal Minds so far, the case of Sithole and Selepe seems to have some parallels to John Nichols and Sam Russell, the unsubs of The Black Queen. Russell and Selepe were both accused of committing a string of killings of women; while they were responsible for some of the murders, they weren't responsible for all of them, with Nichols and Sithole being responsible for the rest. Their cases were later revisited and their innocence questioned when Nichols and Sithole continued the killings. While Sithole and Selepe weren't outright confirmed to be partners, the fact that Nichols and Russell worked together as a killing team may be a reference to the assumption that they were.
Sithole's signature of making taunting phone calls to his victims' families also seems to have been used for child killers Claire Bates and Daniel Milworth. His M.O. was also used for Michael Kosina's murders, in which he also targeted women and took them to remote fields, where he beat, raped, and strangled them to death.
In addition, Ronald Weems's habit of writing messages to law enforcement on his victims' skin may have been based from Sithole doing that with his first murder victim.
- Wikipedia's article about Sithole
- Murderpedia's article about Sithole
- Ding en Goete (Things & Stuff):
- Crime and Investigation's timeline of Sithole's crimes